Employee Experience

New Research: Vaccine policies may determine whether employees stay or go

How do employees feel about mandatory vaccinations and how can organizations address the new federal mandate while addressing the concerns and requirements of employees? In this article, we share our research as well as some best practices for large organizations looking to support their employees.

This blog was first published in August 2021 and has been updated in September 2021 to include new information, including the new federal vaccine mandates for large businesses and healthcare workers.

In early 2020, the pandemic upended life as we knew it. Many were left wondering what impact the sudden shift would have on the future of experience. Employee experience was bound to look different, as millions of workers went remote for the first time, while customer experience was tailored to mandatory safety protocols.

A year later, businesses and organizations have another change for which they must prepare: vaccines. Many large businesses now require their employees to be vaccinated — while others speculate on the effect this will have on customers.

In March, we asked more than 1,000 individuals across the United States about their attitudes toward vaccine mandates and how comfortable they feel returning to everyday activities.

While two out of three workers supported a vaccine mandate, only a quarter believed their employers would make it happen. But with the new federal mandate, it’s now incumbent on businesses to do so and have plans in place.

Half of employees say they’re likely to wait until they’re vaccinated before returning to work in-person, while even more say the same about flying on an airplane.

What do the new federal mandates mean for large businesses?

In light of the new federal mandate on September 9, 2021, employers with 100 or more employees must now ensure their workers are vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

President Biden also signed orders stating that most federal employees and contractors, as well as health care workers across the country, must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Organizations that fail to comply with the new federal mandates could be fined up to $14,000 per violation.

Related: 4 steps to manage compliance with federal vaccination requirements

As employees return to the workplace and customers venture out of their homes, employers and business leaders will now need to listen more intently to feedback from their own people to drive their return-to-work and back-to-business strategies.

Employees support vaccine mandates in the workplace

As employers look to bring people back to work in-person or on a hybrid schedule, the main question for many is how to implement the means to confirm employee vaccination status under the new federal mandate.

As more companies and cities unveil plans for vaccine requirements, a majority of employees continue to support vaccine mandates in the workplace.

  • 60% of employees say they would support their current employers if they require all workers to be vaccinated before returning to work in person. (That number is down from 66% in March.)
    • 75% of workers in tech support vaccine mandates at work
    • 58% of government employees support vaccine mandates at work
    • 59% of retail employees support vaccine mandates at work
    • 63% of men say they support vaccine mandates at work vs. 56% of women
    • 81% of those who identify as Democrats say they support vaccine mandates at work. Only 45% of Republicans say the same

stat on employees with vaccine mandates

  • 34% of employees say their employers require vaccinations for those coming back to work in-person or will do so in the future
    • More than half (57%) of technology or IT workers say their employers do or will require vaccines for in-person workers

What does this mean for you under the new federal mandate?

With our research suggesting that many employees would support such a move, the challenge for businesses isn’t just buy-in, but also implementing a simple and easy-to-use solution for vaccine attestation and managing employee health and safety across the organization.

As the new vaccine attestation requirements roll out across the country, organizations should evaluate the solutions available, with a particular focus on lightweight, plug-and-play options that can be scaled as and when required.

Related: Bring your team back to work with Back to Business for Employees Solutions

Different demographics have distinctive opinions on vaccine mandates

With vaccine mandates becoming more common among large employers, vaccine rules could ultimately be a deciding factor for whether a worker decides to stay at a company or not.

  • Almost a quarter of employees (23%) would strongly consider leaving their place of work if their employers mandated vaccines (vs. 19% in March)

The numbers vary when considering which industry workers are in:

  • Technology: 27% would strongly consider leaving
  • Government: 11% would strongly consider leaving
  • Retail: 31% would strongly consider leaving

The opposite question still generates differing opinions:

  • More than half of tech workers (56%) would consider leaving their job if vaccine mandates are not in place (24% strongly consider, 32% somewhat consider). That is compared to 21% of government workers (2% strongly consider leaving, 19% somewhat consider leaving)

What does this mean for you under the new federal mandate?

With recent developments, our advice here would be to create an environment where employees are supported. Listen to their thoughts and feelings on the current vaccine mandate and develop ways of working that empower them.

To get further buy-in, you could also lead by example. Your vaccinated managers, for instance, can answer employee questions, share their own stories and become stalwart defenders of new policies. As they build trust with employees, pay close attention to your employee vaccination numbers.

Most employees feel safe going back to work — even without a vaccine mandate

Employees can’t maximize their productivity and effectiveness if they are not feeling safe. For some, vaccine requirements are a must. For others, different safety measures like mask-wearing and social distancing are priorities.

  • 57% of employees say they would feel safe going back to work, even if their employer doesn’t require vaccines. On the other hand, nearly a quarter of employees (24%) say they would feel unsafe returning to work without a vaccine mandate
  • Only 52% of those who switched to remote work at some point because of the pandemic say they feel safe going back to work without a vaccine mandate, while 64% of non-remote workers say the same
  • When asked what safety measures have to be in place for employees to feel safe, the top two were requiring employees to wear masks (48%) and social distancing (46%)

Diagram and stats of employees returning to work

What does this mean for you under the new federal mandate?

As our research from March shows that most employees would be fine going back without a mandate. The question is, how can organizations now apply the new vaccine mandate without disgruntling employees?

Developing policies to address the new vaccine mandate and protect the wellbeing of employees — wherever they are — is a simple yet highly effective fix.

The best strategies start with employee listening — knowing why employee perspectives are changing enables organizations to create the work experiences that they need, desire and demand as they choose where and how to work. Balancing the requirements of the new mandates with employee perspectives is crucial, and will help build the workplaces of the future.

Related: Why the employee experience is part of our nation’s recovery

The overwhelming majority of tech employees support vaccine mandates

One industry stands out among the data. Tech workers are significantly more likely than employees in other sectors to support workplace vaccine requirements. More than half (56%) say they would consider leaving their jobs if vaccine requirements are not in place.

  • 12% of tech workers don’t feel comfortable returning to in-person work, regardless of safety measures including vaccine mandates, mask mandates, and social distancing. That’s compared to 8% of the overall employee population.
  • 53% of tech workers say vaccine requirements for all employees have to be in place for them to feel comfortable returning to the office. (Compared to 30% of retail workers, 27% of gov and 35% of all employees)
  • Tech workers ranked masks and vaccine mandates as the top policies that would make them feel safe when returning to the office

Government workers aren’t as supportive of mandates

When it comes to government employees, most rank wearing masks higher than vaccine mandates:

  • 47% of government employees say wearing masks will help them feel safer at work. Compared to 27% who say vaccine mandates will help them feel safer.
  • 10% of government employees say they do not feel safe returning to work in person, while 31% say they feel safe without any specific safety measures in place

Is it good for businesses to require employees to be vaccinated?

Some businesses that cater to customers on-site wonder whether requiring their employees to be vaccinated will be good for business. Unsurprisingly, a majority of respondents also support businesses that mandate vaccines, and some even say they may be more likely to give their business to those that do.

  • 59% of respondents say they would support businesses at which they shop if they require their in-person employees to be vaccinated
    Split by political affiliation: 47% of Republicans support, 80% of Democrats support
  • 48% of respondents say they are more likely to shop at a business that requires their employees to be vaccinated
    • Split by political affiliation: 35% of Republicans are more likely, 70% of Democrats are more likely

What does this mean for you under the new federal mandate?

Even before the new federal mandates, companies across the U.S. made vaccination a core requirement for their workforce and in some cases, their customers.

The fact of the matter is that organizations will have to make an informed decision on how they approach enterprise-wide vaccination. Those that have employees who frequently engage with customers — and not just in the B2C space — must also consider the health and safety of both parties, as well as the business advantages of doing so.

Air Travel

As the travel industry gets back to normal, the majority of consumers are in favor of vaccine passports and wearing masks.

  • 56% of respondents say they would support implementing vaccine passports in the U.S.
  • 58% of respondents say they support proof of vaccination for air travelers
  • 70% of respondents support wearing masks for air travelers

Americans are split on vaccination requirements beyond the work setting

Going to work isn’t the only thing employees are hoping to do this fall. People are the most supportive of requiring proof of vaccination for air travel and attending large public events. The activities that elicited the most ‘unsupportive’ answers were in-person retail and grocery shopping.

  • Proof of vaccination:
  • Attending large public events: 53% support
  • Attending classes or living on campus at a higher ed institution: 53% support
  • Children attending K-12 school: 51% support
  • Attending religious services: 43% support
  • Eating at restaurants: 44% support
  • In-person shopping at grocery stores: 41% support
  • In-person retail shopping: 41% support

Even with vaccine mandates in place, masks are still popular among consumers. Individuals would like to see masks worn at the following events:

Mask requirements:

  • Attending large public events: 63% support
  • Attending classes or living on campus at a higher ed institution: 62% support
  • Children attending K-12 school: 61% support
  • Attending religious services: 59% support
  • Eating at restaurants: 59% support
  • In-person shopping at grocery stores: 63% support
  • In-person retail shopping: 62% support

As organizations shift out of the global pandemic and into the new normal, brands around the world use Qualtrics to identify what people need and what actions they can take to improve the everyday experiences of customers and employees. During the global pandemic, Qualtrics responded to the changing needs of its customers by introducing new Return to Work and Back to Business solutions that help companies quickly pivot their strategies by identifying and fixing experience gaps across their organizations.

Learn more about Qualtrics’ Return to Work and Back to Business solutions.


Learn more about the Qualtrics Vaccination & Testing Manager

Methodological approach:

This study was fielded between Aug. 2 - Aug. 5, 2021. Respondents were considered eligible if they live in the United States, are at least 21 years of age, and are employed full- or part-time. The total number of respondents was 1,051. Respondents who did not pass quality standards were removed. The study examined age, gender, race, industry, political affiliation, education level, and marital status.

Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics is the technology platform that organizations use to collect, manage, and act on experience data, also called X-data™. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action, used by teams, departments, and entire organizations to manage the four core experiences of business—customer, product, employee, and brand—on one platform.

Over 12,000 enterprises worldwide, including more than 75 percent of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools, rely on Qualtrics to consistently build products that people love, create more loyal customers, develop a phenomenal employee culture, and build iconic brands.

Related Articles